Inatiative order (how do u manage this situation)


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How a GM should aproach the following situation:

There is a meeting between the party and the enemy. Both are discuting in a "peacefull" way.

There is a sniper gunslinger hiding in the roof, nobody noticed him.

The plan of the party was to distract everybody to give a chance to the gunslinger to one shot the boss of the enemys before the combat starts.

I have differents options to aprach this:

1) After the first shot we use inatiative order.

2) After the first shot we use inatiative but gunslinger will have only 2 actions on his turn.

3) Everyone uses initiative, if the gunslinger is not spoted he is just first.


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By the rules, none of the three solutions is valid: the gunslinger can't make their Strike before initiative is rolled (surprise round doesn't exist in PF2e), and there's no caveat to put them first in the initiative order or to split their turn.
Technically, the gunslinger is Unnoticed; the moment its player manifests the intention to attack, initiative is rolled normally (with the gunslinger using Stealth) and you follow the normal order, with NPC unaware of the sniper (depending on that same Stealth roll) just doing what they would do normally; alternatively, they may realize that there's something going on even if they don't know where the menace comes from (gunslinger going to Undetected status), and take some defensive measures - this solution has the advantage of not punishing too much the actors that rolled high with their Perception, which would be counter-intuitive, but it also disadvantages the party somewhat.

That said, if the situation is that the gunslinger is basically undetectable before the shot, following the rules wouldn't be very realistic. At my table, I would go with option 3.


If it's just for once ( a peculiar situation which just happened), I see no issues in letting the sniper go first ( they have to roll anyway on the next round, to properly place themselves in the initiative tracker).

If players demand to do this all the time, everybody rolls for initiative and that's it.


HumbleGamer wrote:

If it's just for once ( a peculiar situation which just happened), I see no issues in letting the sniper go first ( they have to roll anyway on the next round, to properly place themselves in the initiative tracker).

If players demand to do this all the time, everybody rolls for initiative and that's it.

I think that every time he have a chance a sniper gunslinger will try to be the one starting a combat.


PochiPooom wrote:
HumbleGamer wrote:

If it's just for once ( a peculiar situation which just happened), I see no issues in letting the sniper go first ( they have to roll anyway on the next round, to properly place themselves in the initiative tracker).

If players demand to do this all the time, everybody rolls for initiative and that's it.

I think that every time he have a chance a sniper gunslinger will try to be the one starting a combat.

Well, then it's deliberately going against the system ( which asks for either players and monsters to roll their initiative before anything else starts ).

The absence of a "surprise" round can be tough when it comes down to flavor stuff, but it's not a big deal.

Another possibility is for the sniper to use their round as it follows:

- Ready action to trigger a shot ( 2 actions + 1 reaction )
They will start first than anyone else.

Then on their turn ( depends the initiative ) they'll have 1 action ( using the -5 map from the previous shot ).


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'm with Megistone: Everyone rolls initiative and we see what happens, with PCs taking social actions or delaying until after the Gunslinger, and the enemies having the opportunity to possibly sniff out the ambush and/or seek out the hidden sniper.

I don't allow for wordsmithing of free attacks. There's already a really great system in place to adjudicate whether ambushes work, and I have PTSD about PCs begging for surprise rounds after our years with 5e.


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This is in the GMG on page 11: Initiative and Stealth.


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The usual way I deal with situations like these is work with the unnoticed condition.

That is, initiative is rolled normally, and basically npc AND players before the snipers initiative basically use their actions talking/seeking/etc depending on what they were doing before.

At the sniper initiative he makes his strike and then initiative continues normally with the caveat that now everyone is aware.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Rolling initiative doesn't automatically mean combat, merely "moving to encounter mode". As such, the encounter can proceed as before, just in the more structured encounter mode until someone makes an overtly hostile action (such as shooting at someone), at which point the enemies will likely attack back.

As long as the sniper is undetected, there is no good reason why anyone should act differently before the sniper takes the shot. However, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that everyone not actively involved in negotiations (i.e. guards, non-face-PCs, etc.) are constantly delaying their actions, or (in case of a body guard, e.g.) actually have actions readied to trigger in case of an attack. But nothing unusual should happen before the actual shot is fired. And those who are focused on whatever else is going on (negotiations, etc.) are busy with that and cannot also delay/ready an action.

Keep player/gm knowldege about what one player has announced his character is going to do strictly seperate from character knowledge, where most characters have no clue about what's going to happen.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Assuming the gunslinger already succeeded his Stealth checks to be hidden, that looks like 1 PC rolling Stealth for Initiative and the rest rolling Deception for Initiative while the opponents are probably rolling Perception (or maybe Diplomacy or Deception, themselves).

If the gunslinger rolls poorly, the people above them in Initiative simply use up their 3 actions on talking, though a failed Deception check on the distracting character(s) part might set some of the opponents to Seek with one or two of their actions.


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albadeon wrote:
Rolling initiative doesn't automatically mean combat, merely "moving to encounter mode". As such, the encounter can proceed as before, just in the more structured encounter mode until someone makes an overtly hostile action (such as shooting at someone), at which point the enemies will likely attack back.

That's a very bad way of playing it. The second the combat starts, initiative has to be rolled, even if you were already in encounter mode before (in that case it is rerolled as it's another encounter). Allowing the party to be in combat (using Delay and Ready) while the enemies are not is just not the way the game plays. Also, it would mean having all the characters at the best initiative as they can just Delay and play first once the combat start. So it's nearly equivalent to a surprise round for everyone.

Also, in this very specific case, there's not just the sniper, there are also the characters speaking with the enemy. So you can roll initiative normally as even if the NPCs are not aware of the sniper, they are very much aware of the other PCs using Deception to delay things until the sniper attacks. If an enemy rolls high, it can just sniff out that the PCs are not there for talking and attack without having to resort to any kind of spider sense.

If the other PCs were not there, then the situation would be a bit more tricky, as an NPC rolling higher in initiative than the sniper would be in this very strange case where they know that someone is intending on attacking them without having any idea who.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Blake's Tiger wrote:

Assuming the gunslinger already succeeded his Stealth checks to be hidden, that looks like 1 PC rolling Stealth for Initiative and the rest rolling Deception for Initiative while the opponents are probably rolling Perception (or maybe Diplomacy or Deception, themselves).

If the gunslinger rolls poorly, the people above them in Initiative simply use up their 3 actions on talking, though a failed Deception check on the distracting character(s) part might set some of the opponents to Seek with one or two of their actions.

Well put, though the gunslinger can actually fail his stealth check and be hidden. You're only spotted on a critical failure and a success probably leaves him unnoticed or unobserved.

Failure A telltale sound or other sign gives your position away, though you still remain unseen. You’re hidden from the creature throughout your movement and remain so.

Critical Failure You’re spotted! You’re observed by the creature throughout your movement and remain so. If you’re invisible and were hidden from the creature, instead of being observed you’re hidden throughout your movement and remain so.

Whether he's unnoticed vs unobserved depends how everyone else does in initiative. If the opponents rolls highest and another PC fails a deception initiative check against the Perception DC, the failing PC's eyes might flicker up to the rooftop, prompting the opponent to use their first action Seeking on that area.

I like to think of these "social ambushes" as a Tarentino movie scene, where the tension is high and you're worried you will give away your murderous intent or fail to notice the opponent doing the same. You might notice someone reaching for their gun and beat them in the quick draw still. The glint of a gun barrel as you take ai, a twig snapping while you prepare to pounce, your voice cracking, your gaze wandering, or even just the enemy happening to glance in your direction at the wrong moment... Any of these could give you away before you pull the trigger.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
SuperBidi wrote:
The second the combat starts, initiative has to be rolled, even if you were already in encounter mode before (in that case it is rerolled as it's another encounter). Allowing the party to be in combat (using Delay and Ready) while the enemies are not is just not the way the game plays.

Why would it be a new encounter? It's just the same encounter turning from tense negotiation to open hostility. If you already are in intiative order, because you are in a situation where every individual action counts and the order in which people act is relevant, I see no reason why you would need to reroll initiative just because the next action taken is "Strike". There is no sub-form of encounter mode that is "combat mode", it's one and the same encounter.

Also, I don't quite understand what you mean by allowing only the party to be in combat? When the game is in encounter mode, everyone involved is in encounter mode and thus in initiative order. PCs and NPCs are not treated differently in that regard.

Whether or not the PCs are using Deception or something else depends on how much they know. If they know the sniper is going to take a shot during the negotiation, they're are quite possibly using Deception. If they just know that something surprising might happen today, I'd lean more towards Perception. It depends on the exact circumstances.

SuperBidi wrote:
If the other PCs were not there, then the situation would be a bit more tricky, as an NPC rolling higher in initiative than the sniper would be in this very strange case where they know that someone is intending on attacking them without having any idea who.

The last situation you describe is the principal reason why it's not a good idea for the sniper player to say "I want to take a shot", but to say, "I might want to take a shot during the negotiation, it depends on the exact timing, let's take this to encounter mode". The NPC rolling higher than the (undetected) sniper has no way of knowing if and when someone is going to attack them, they can only act as if they knew, because the GM knows (and fails to keep that GM knowledge seperate from NPC knowledge).


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The difference between letting the sniper automatically go first and running the game in encounter mode but having no one be ready for a fight until the sniper makes their move is kind of one without a real distinction. Either way running it this way is giving the sniper the free opening round.

Quote:
The NPC rolling higher than the (undetected) sniper has no way of knowing if and when someone is going to attack them, they can only act as if they knew, because the GM knows

Undetected is not the same as unnoticed, though. The GMG brings up this specific scenario and suggests a character in it might try to Seek their enemy, move, or otherwise prepare for a fight, because they're aware that something is amiss nearby, even if they don't have specific information.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

My apologies, I should have used the correct game term "unnoticed" to describe the sniper's condition, i.e. none of the enemies (or, depending on circumstances, noone in the room at all) have any idea that he's there.

While this is not quite the same as a surprise round, it still does make sense that whatever happens happens in the correct order. The attack that turns the encounter hostile actually has to have happened before people react to it. After all, the sniper only has to actually spend an action to strike when it's his turn in the initiative order. There is no reason why he should be the only person to commit to an action way before his turn. If on his turn he decides to just keep doing the same thing he had been doing the past 20 minutes while observing the negotiations and not to attack, why would any of the other people present and before him in intitative order have reason to act any different on that round? Nothing has changed when it's their turn and whether or not things are going to change is decided only on the sniper's turn.


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albadeon wrote:
Why would it be a new encounter? It's just the same encounter turning from tense negotiation to open hostility.

That's the definition of a new encounter. You don't carry initiative from one encounter to the other. Once you switch from negotiation to combat you roll initiative again.

albadeon wrote:
"I might want to take a shot during the negotiation, it depends on the exact timing, let's take this to encounter mode"

Encounter mode outside combat has to be used sparingly. A social encounter in encounter mode is just awful to play through, a good way to ruin a session from my experience.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Squiggit wrote:
The difference between letting the sniper automatically go first and running the game in encounter mode but having no one be ready for a fight until the sniper makes their move is kind of one without a real distinction.

Here's the distinctions.

Scenario A Initiative: Sniper has highest initiative and has LOS to target

Sniper
PC 1
Boss
PC 2
PC 3
NPC 2
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with the Sniper

Scenario B Initiative: Sniper has highest initiative but has no LOS to target and the PCs successfully lure the Boss into LOS with Deception.

PC 1 (reaction available)
Boss (reaction available)
Sniper
PC 2
PC 3
NPC 2
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with Sniper Delaying, PC 1 uses Deception/Strides/Steps, Boss Strides and whatever else he would do during a face to face negotiation, PC 1 and Boss both have their reactions available now, and then Sniper acts.

Scenario C Initiative: Sniper has middling initiative and PC 1 succeeds Deception check.

PC 1 (reaction available)
Boss (reaction available)
NPC 2 (reaction available)
Sniper
PC 2 (delayed)
PC 3 (delayed)
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with PC 1 using Deception and whatever other actions, Boss and NPC 2 do whatever they would do during face to face negotiations, including spending their turn talking, PC 2 and PC 3 delay until Sniper fires. Sniper fires. PC 1, Boss, and NPC 2 have reactions available.

Scenario D Initiative: Sniper has middling initiative and PC 1 fails Deception check.

PC 1 (reaction available)
Boss
NPC 2
PC 2
PC 3
Sniper
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with PC 1 using Deception and whatever other actions, Boss does whatever he would do upon detecting the deception, which may include Sense Motive to determine what the PC's true intent is, withdrawing, attacking, all sorts of things happen before the Sniper gets to fire.

Versus Scenario E: "It doesn't matter if we just start with the Sniper because all the PCs delay"

Boss
NPC 2
Sniper
PC 1
PC 2
PC 3
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Boss and NPC 2 got no actions and PC 1, 2, and 3 get to conserve all of their actions.

TLDR; Entering encounter mode and rolling initiative rather than starting with the Sniper and having the other PCs delay matters because there are so many different ways the encounter could play out besides the PCs successfully tricking the Boss into LOS and the Sniper shooting first.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

The tldr of this is that if at any point someone wants to use actions that are only used in Encounter mode than initiative is rolled. This case would also be a good use of secret checks to avoid meta.


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Blake's Tiger wrote:
Squiggit wrote:
The difference between letting the sniper automatically go first and running the game in encounter mode but having no one be ready for a fight until the sniper makes their move is kind of one without a real distinction.

Here's the distinctions.

Scenario A Initiative: Sniper has highest initiative and has LOS to target

Sniper
PC 1
Boss
PC 2
PC 3
NPC 2
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with the Sniper

Scenario B Initiative: Sniper has highest initiative but has no LOS to target and the PCs successfully lure the Boss into LOS with Deception.

PC 1 (reaction available)
Boss (reaction available)
Sniper
PC 2
PC 3
NPC 2
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with Sniper Delaying, PC 1 uses Deception/Strides/Steps, Boss Strides and whatever else he would do during a face to face negotiation, PC 1 and Boss both have their reactions available now, and then Sniper acts.

Scenario C Initiative: Sniper has middling initiative and PC 1 succeeds Deception check.

PC 1 (reaction available)
Boss (reaction available)
NPC 2 (reaction available)
Sniper
PC 2 (delayed)
PC 3 (delayed)
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with PC 1 using Deception and whatever other actions, Boss and NPC 2 do whatever they would do during face to face negotiations, including spending their turn talking, PC 2 and PC 3 delay until Sniper fires. Sniper fires. PC 1, Boss, and NPC 2 have reactions available.

Scenario D Initiative: Sniper has middling initiative and PC 1 fails Deception check.

PC 1 (reaction available)
Boss
NPC 2
PC 2
PC 3
Sniper
NPC 3
PC4
NPC 4

Combat begins with PC 1 using Deception and whatever other actions, Boss does whatever he would do upon detecting the deception, which may include Sense Motive to determine what the PC's true intent is, withdrawing, attacking, all sorts of things happen before the Sniper gets to fire.

Versus Scenario E: "It doesn't matter if we just start with the Sniper because all the PCs delay"

Boss
NPC 2
Sniper
PC 1
PC 2
PC 3...

I'd never allow the players to "delay" in that scenario without some really good Telepathy going on to have that much precise knowledge of the exact second the sniper is going to shoot.

Everything else ("I know he's going to shoot *sometime*") is the definition of initiative (how fast you react).

(for the same reason why npcs/guards aren't "permanently delaying until something suspicious happens")


I'd allow the delay, it's just a matter of PCs knowing that they are supposed to "act nonchalant" until they hear the shot.

Of course, "don't act suspicious" is really hard if you actually know something is up. I'd force all of the PCs (except the sniper) to use Deception for initiative, with the NPCs getting defensive on a failure (how much depending on how bad the failure).

As a side note, I assume that in any meeting of strangers the NPCs will include Sense motive and Seek actions (scanning the treeline / background) in the first round just because Golarion is a default dangerous place to live. If the PCs survive that first round of feeling out the other side, and no-one has been attacked, then the NPCs may well relax a bit.

Sniping can absolutely work, but it takes good role play and roll play. IMO it should not be a magic free shot.


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A GM who won't allow Delay during Encounter Mode is breaking the rules of the game, which is bound to lead to understandable player upset.

Just wait for the sound of the shot before acting. No telepathy needed, you just need working ears (or in the case of quieter weapons like bows, eyes.)

A gout of blood from the enemy makes for a pretty clear signal that it's time to act.


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Ravingdork wrote:

A GM who won't allow Delay during Encounter Mode is breaking the rules of the game, which is bound to lead to understandable player upset.

Just wait for the sound of the shot before acting. No telepathy needed, you just need working ears (or in the case of quieter weapons like bows, eyes.)

A gout of blood from the enemy makes for a pretty clear signal that it's time to act.

It's the players who ask to break the rules to begin with though...

A gout of blood from the enemy is also a pretty clear signal for the enemy to act as well.

The enemy also has working eyes and ears. Reaction speed to that stimuli IS initiative to begin with.

There's bound to be concessions when we are already acting outside of the rules since going by RAW surprise rounds do not exist at all.

If the players take fault by my approach, then there's no issue, I can go RAW and have the enemies magically sensing that "something is up" the second initiative is rolled.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
shroudb wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

A GM who won't allow Delay during Encounter Mode is breaking the rules of the game, which is bound to lead to understandable player upset.

Just wait for the sound of the shot before acting. No telepathy needed, you just need working ears (or in the case of quieter weapons like bows, eyes.)

A gout of blood from the enemy makes for a pretty clear signal that it's time to act.

It's the players who ask to break the rules to begin with though...

A gout of blood from the enemy is also a pretty clear signal for the enemy to act as well.

The enemy also has working eyes and ears. Reaction speed to that stimuli IS initiative to begin with.

There's bound to be concessions when we are already acting outside of the rules since going by RAW surprise rounds do not exist at all.

If the players take fault by my approach, then there's no issue, I can go RAW and have the enemies magically sensing that "something is up" the second initiative is rolled.

I don't see where you see breaking of raw.

If someone declares intent to use an action that causes initiative, initiative is rolled. Being in encounter mode doesn't give any super sense that something is wrong or that people should fight. All the enemies know is what their senses tell them. The party is presumably in on the plan and thus delaying until someone (hopefully the sniper) acts hostile is totally within the realm of raw for encounter mode and the delay action.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Nicolas Paradise wrote:
Being in encounter mode doesn't give any super sense that something is wrong or that people should fight.

Again, according to the GMG, a character who succeeds at their stealth check but loses initiative is undetected and not unnoticed.

So the characters do know something is amiss and will act accordingly.

Which is probably where the pushback to Ravingdork's comment is coming from, because giving the PCs a freebie at the start of combat is already bending the rules in their favor, and only complaining about the sanctity of RAW when it's to your benefit feels a little mercenary.

Grand Lodge

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Ravingdork wrote:

A GM who won't allow Delay during Encounter Mode is breaking the rules of the game, which is bound to lead to understandable player upset.

Just wait for the sound of the shot before acting. No telepathy needed, you just need working ears (or in the case of quieter weapons like bows, eyes.)

A gout of blood from the enemy makes for a pretty clear signal that it's time to act.

This isn't what the rules say at all:

Source Core Rulebook pg. 498 3.0
Transitioning from exploration to an encounter usually involves rolling for initiative. Call for initiative once a trap is triggered, as soon as two opposing groups come into contact, or when a creature on one side decides to take action against the other. For example:

Merisiel and Kyra are negotiating with the kobold king. Things aren’t going well, so Merisiel decides to launch a surprise attack. As soon as she says this is her plan, you call for initiative.

/end quote

As soon as someone decides to take a hostile action you roll for initiative. It really is that simple.


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Quote:
This is in the GMG on page 11: Initiative and Stealth.

Once again, how to handle this exact scenario:

Initiative and Stealth wrote:

When one or both sides of an impending battle are being stealthy, you’ll need to deal with the impacts of Stealth on the start of the encounter. Anyone who’s Avoiding Notice should attempt a Stealth check for their initiative. All the normal bonuses and penalties apply, including any bonus for having cover. You can give them the option to roll Perception instead, but if they do they forsake their Stealth and are definitely going to be detected.

To determine whether someone is undetected by other participants in the encounter, you still compare their Stealth check for initiative to the Perception DC of their enemies. They’re undetected by anyone whose DC they meet or exceed. So what do you do if someone rolls better than everyone else on initiative, but all their foes beat their Perception DC? Well, all the enemies are undetected, but not unnoticed. That means the participant who rolled high still knows someone is around, and can start moving about, Seeking, and otherwise preparing to fight. The characters Avoiding Notice still have a significant advantage, since that character needs to spend actions and attempt additional checks in order to find them. What if both sides are sneaking about? They might just sneak past each other entirely, or they might suddenly run into one another if they’re heading into the same location.


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Jared Walter 356 wrote:

Source Core Rulebook pg. 498 3.0

Transitioning from exploration to an encounter usually involves rolling for initiative. Call for initiative once a trap is triggered, as soon as two opposing groups come into contact, or when a creature on one side decides to take action against the other. For example:

Merisiel and Kyra are negotiating with the kobold king. Things aren’t going well, so Merisiel decides to launch a surprise attack. As soon as she says this is her plan, you call for initiative.

/end quote

As soon as someone decides to take a hostile action you roll for initiative. It really is that simple.

I have avoided commenting because I use a houserule. But now I see the word "usually" in the Rolling Initiative rule that Jared Walter 356 quoted, so I realize that my solution can be managed by the rules as written. "Transitioning from exploration to an encounter usually involves rolling for initiative."

When the sniper shoots, everyone except the sniper rolls for initiative. The sniper, on the other hand, does not roll. Instead, the GM puts the sniper at the beginning of initiative order.

If you insist on everyone rolling, then everyone rolls, but the GM gives the sniper a +20 circumstance bonus to initiative.

My houserule was PochiPooom's suggestion "1) After the first shot we use initiative order." The person who deliberately triggers encounter mode got one free turn before everyone else, and later takes their regular turn that they rolled. The reason is that we tried a suggestion that other have made, that everyone rolls and then waits until the sniper takes their turn. The end result is that the people with naturally high Perception (or alternative skill for initiative) or people who rolled well end up acting later than everyone else, because they already did nothing during that round. Or if they Delayed, we end up with a awkward clump of PC turns after the sniper and an awkward clump of NPC turns before the sniper, with those particular NPCs having skipped their turn in the first round. Losing a turn due to rolling high is not fair, and clumps unbalance combat due to several people on one side working together without interference.

The PCs in my Ironfang Invasion campaign are all very Stealthy, because the 1st module, Trail of the Hunted, required them to hide in the forest. Thus, they often scouted an enemy patrol hunting them via successful Quiet Allies in Exploration mode and planned an ambush. Thus, I needed a houserule for the start of an ambush Encounter.

But putting the triggering person at the top of initiative order, because players only usually roll for initiative at the discretion of the GM, appears to be possible without a houserule.

I have used discretionary initiative before, when reinforcements enter the room a few rounds after combat began. Those new people did not roll initiative on the first turn.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
shroudb wrote:
Ravingdork wrote:

A GM who won't allow Delay during Encounter Mode is breaking the rules of the game, which is bound to lead to understandable player upset.

Just wait for the sound of the shot before acting. No telepathy needed, you just need working ears (or in the case of quieter weapons like bows, eyes.)

A gout of blood from the enemy makes for a pretty clear signal that it's time to act.

It's the players who ask to break the rules to begin with though...

A gout of blood from the enemy is also a pretty clear signal for the enemy to act as well.

The enemy also has working eyes and ears. Reaction speed to that stimuli IS initiative to begin with.

There's bound to be concessions when we are already acting outside of the rules since going by RAW surprise rounds do not exist at all.

If the players take fault by my approach, then there's no issue, I can go RAW and have the enemies magically sensing that "something is up" the second initiative is rolled.

I don't let my players have surprise rounds either, but delaying after initiative has been rolled is not that.

Grand Lodge

Mathmuse wrote:


The reason is that we tried a suggestion that other have made, that everyone rolls and then waits until the sniper takes their turn. The end result is that the people with naturally high Perception (or alternative skill for initiative) or people who rolled well end up acting later than everyone else, because they already did nothing during that round. Or if they Delayed, we end up with a awkward clump of PC turns after the sniper and an awkward...

Why wait until the sniper takes his turn? Beating your opponents in initiative means you pick up on their aggressive stance, heard the scuffling on the roof, or some other signal that hostilities are critically eminent. There is no reason they can't take action against the other detected targets, or seek the target. The sniper is not unnoticed, only undetected.

The problem comes from the misrepresentation of combat as distinct actions taken in a distinct order and resolved completely before the next character acts. While this is mechanically how the rules handle this, it is not the natural state of combat.

They went out the way to remove the surprise round to discourage this meta-gaming mentality, would I would describe as abusing the rules to game the system.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
BloodandDust wrote:
I'd force all of the PCs (except the sniper) to use Deception for initiative, with the NPCs getting defensive on a failure (how much depending on how bad the failure).

This is important too. A lot of people think of using skill checks as something GMs can let players choose if it is advantageous to them. Really it is supposed to be whatever makes the most sense in the fiction, even if it is bad for the players.

I'll let players choose between athletics, acrobatics, or stealth if they are kicking down the door. All those make sense in the fiction. But if characters are engaged a social scene, I'm probably gonna make them roll social checks regardless of whether their perception modifier is better.


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Jared Walter 356 wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
The reason is that we tried a suggestion that other have made, that everyone rolls and then waits until the sniper takes their turn. The end result is that the people with naturally high Perception (or alternative skill for initiative) or people who rolled well end up acting later than everyone else, because they already did nothing during that round. Or if they Delayed, we end up with a awkward clump of PC turns after the sniper and an awkward...

Why wait until the sniper takes his turn? Beating your opponents in initiative means you pick up on their aggressive stance, heard the scuffling on the roof, or some other signal that hostilities are critically eminent. There is no reason they can't take action against the other detected targets, or seek the target. The sniper is not unnoticed, only undetected.

The problem comes from the misrepresentation of combat as distinct actions taken in a distinct order and resolved completely before the next character acts. While this is mechanically how the rules handle this, it is not the natural state of combat.

They went out the way to remove the surprise round to discourage this meta-gaming mentality, would I would describe as abusing the rules to game the system.

The players planned an opening action. They wanted to fireball a patrol while it was still grouped together and away from party members.

Another time they wanted to roll a boulder down the side of gorge into the middle of an enemy army. Half of the party was hidden on the floor of the gorge away from the path of the boulder, so if they revealed themselves before the boulder, then the enemy would charge them and move out of the path of the boulder.

A third time an escaped prisoner had warned them about the shrieker mushrooms that served as an alarm system at the mouth of a cavern complex, so a very Deceptive goat herder (rogue with scoundrel racket and animal whisper background) made goat sounds to lure a hungry guard outside so that the one of the guards triggered the mushroom shrieks himself. The Deception check for goat sounds was in Exploration mode and the enemy guard got the first turn.

Other times they were satisfied with working on a random schedule. They waited until some of an enemy patrol was wading across a river so that they could catch them in uneven ground. The first enemy rolled a Critical Success on his Balance action and finished crossing the river before the party sprung the ambush, but enough of the patrol was in the river that they felt that was a success. Another time one of them just walked up to the enemy and then ran into the forest where the ranger had set up snares. No particular initiative order was needed for that.

Imagine that the first action was the party rogue unlocking and opening a door so that the rest of the party could rush in. They can't do anything before the door is open, so why give them random initiatives that would be too early? They already made their Stealth check in Exploration that showed that no-one in the room heard them.

My players put a lot of effort into being observant and stealthy scouts. I like to reward such roleplaying effort by allowing plausible tactics. Thus, after good rolls in Exploration mode, they could catch their enemy by surprise with one character's surprise turn but not a full surprise round for the entire party.


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Mathmuse wrote:
Jared Walter 356 wrote:
Mathmuse wrote:
The reason is that we tried a suggestion that other have made, that everyone rolls and then waits until the sniper takes their turn. The end result is that the people with naturally high Perception (or alternative skill for initiative) or people who rolled well end up acting later than everyone else, because they already did nothing during that round. Or if they Delayed, we end up with a awkward clump of PC turns after the sniper and an awkward...

Why wait until the sniper takes his turn? Beating your opponents in initiative means you pick up on their aggressive stance, heard the scuffling on the roof, or some other signal that hostilities are critically eminent. There is no reason they can't take action against the other detected targets, or seek the target. The sniper is not unnoticed, only undetected.

The problem comes from the misrepresentation of combat as distinct actions taken in a distinct order and resolved completely before the next character acts. While this is mechanically how the rules handle this, it is not the natural state of combat.

They went out the way to remove the surprise round to discourage this meta-gaming mentality, would I would describe as abusing the rules to game the system.

The players planned an opening action. They wanted to fireball a patrol while it was still grouped together and away from party members.

Another time they wanted to roll a boulder down the side of gorge into the middle of an enemy army. Half of the party was hidden on the floor of the gorge away from the path of the boulder, so if they revealed themselves before the boulder, then the enemy would charge them and move out of the path of the boulder.

A third time an escaped prisoner had warned them about the shrieker mushrooms that served as an alarm system at the mouth of a cavern complex, so a very Deceptive goat herder (rogue with scoundrel racket and animal whisper background) made goat sounds to lure a hungry guard...

From my experience, limiting ambushes advantage is for the most part to help the players.

The opportunities for enemies to ambush players are much more plentiful than the other way around.

If I would allow players to "delay till one goes and then all players go" (in a circumstance that basically the enemy doesn't even know he's in an encounter) then the other way around, successful ambushes from the monsters/npcs would also mean the same. Which basically translates to a full round of actions from one side before the other side react.

Hence why I initially said that I could allow some form of ambush advantage in very specific circumstances (everyone being unaware of the snipers exact timing in this case) but not the whole "delay the whole team to act immediately after the sniper" which to me screams for metagame abuse of the system.


Mathmuse wrote:
Imagine that the first action was the party rogue unlocking and opening a door so that the rest of the party could rush in. They can't do anything before the door is open, so why give them random initiatives that would be too early? They already made their Stealth check in Exploration that showed that no-one in the room heard them.

In such case, you should roll initiative once the door is opened.

The main issue of the sniper example is that the action that trigger the initiative is a combat action, one that should always be played under initiative.

I also think that, in such case, the best is to consider that the action went through. After all, if the sniper managed to be stealthy, if the party lured the enemy into the open, they all have made a bunch of rolls and allowing the sniper to have a shot before actually rolling initiative is a nice way to reward these checks.

A surprise round is too much and imbalances PF2 extremely accurate combat balance but a single action should rarely win a fight on its own.


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Giving a single action is fine balance-wise. My preference still goes towards simply putting the sniper first.
We already know that bonuses and penalties apply to initiative checks (it's explicitly written in the rule that talks about using Stealth for that purpose). So, if one is trying to stay hidden and attack the enemy by surprise, they are merely rolling a Stealth check, with the particular situation and the precautions employed taken into account in the form of a bonus/penalty.
When there is no reasonable way to notice their presence or intentions (like with a flying, invisible, silenced sniper, or one firing through an arrow slit from 300ft away, or something like that), it just makes sense to rule that the Stealth check simply has success, and thus places the actor first in the initiative count.
This has the additional advantage of effectively rewarding those who score well with whatever roll they make for initiative, as they will be first to react.

Liberty's Edge

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Just be sure to let the group know that if you allow this then you're opening a can of worms to create and use similar ambushes against the party when they're unprepared and likely don't even have weapons/shields at the ready which can create some TRULY deadly first rounds of combat.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Do keep in mind that when you're lying in ambush you can use Take Cover to get a +4 circumstance bonus to your initiative check. You have great odds of going first.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Do keep in mind that when you're lying in ambush you can use Take Cover to get a +4 circumstance bonus to your initiative check. You have great odds of going first.

The bonus from Cover doesn't apply to Avoid Notice, but to Sneak and Hide checks.

Feel free to apply it, but it's really improving Avoid Notice and I don't think it needs it.


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Themetricsystem wrote:
Just be sure to let the group know that if you allow this then you're opening a can of worms to create and use similar ambushes against the party when they're unprepared and likely don't even have weapons/shields at the ready which can create some TRULY deadly first rounds of combat.

The most recent ambush against my party was last week's game session. It had to be on initiative time rather than triggering-event time because the Greater Fungal Shamblers had to wait for the party to approach close enough. A Greater Fungal Shambler is a creature infected with darkblight that reduced its form to a Shambler but empowered it to 15th level (same level as the PCs).

The rogue rode through the clearing on a phantom steed when his Trap Finder sense gave him a free Perception check to find a shambler mound nearby. He had no actions left for Point Out, so he gave only a verbal warning to the rest of the party. The ranger Seeked, failed to spot any shambler mounds, and proceeded on his phantom steed. One mound formed into a shambler, moved to the ranger, attacked with a vine, and grabbed him. Later, the shambler that the rogue had spotted grabbed him before he had another turn to move away.

In today's game session they will face aquatic ambushes by Froghemoths. Their usual perception abilities won't give advance warning, because the froghemoths are hiding in a very strong fey illusion.

Many monsters in the Bestiaries have ambush abilities. Giving one a humongous advantage in initiative would not increase the challenge much.


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
SuperBidi wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Do keep in mind that when you're lying in ambush you can use Take Cover to get a +4 circumstance bonus to your initiative check. You have great odds of going first.

The bonus from Cover doesn't apply to Avoid Notice, but to Sneak and Hide checks.

Feel free to apply it, but it's really improving Avoid Notice and I don't think it needs it.

Avoid Notice explicitly uses Sneak rules, at least when initiative is rolled. And you can't actually Sneak if there's nothing to hide behind.

Also, Avoiding Notice really isn't lying in ambush. Exploration Tactics are generally for doing while moving. If you're lying in ambush it is really just a straight initiative check.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The best way to handle any unexpected situation as a GM is to do your best to pick a way that feels fun and fair in the moment, and then if you are unsure afterwards, look deeper into the rules/discuss it on the boards, but then also bring this conversation back to your players when you have a new idea.

One additional way that I might try to handle a similar situation, would be to run the first half of the encounter with a victory point system. First I would estimate how many rounds the sniper needs to set up their position and have that be the length of the social "encounter." The party is trying to delay the enemy, but keep them preoccupied and not suspicious. I wouldn't want this to be a stituation where the party face steps to the front and rolls one deception check, while 2 members of the party try to just say nothing and avoid the GMs notice until the sniper is ready. So I would make everyone take their turns with up to three actions to try to earn VP to distract the enemy. Assuming that the sniper probably needs about 2 rounds to make this work, I would set 8 VP as best case scenario, 5 for good, and if at point the number drops below 0, the enemy jumps into combat immediately.

The sniper will be using sneak actions. I would do a simple 2 points for a critical success, 1 for a success, nothing for a failure, and if the sniper critically fails, I would take away 5 points from the party as it draws a lot of attention their way.

For the rest of the party, I would have a similar point distribution, except critical failures would only give -1 point. Since I would be running this on the fly, I probably wouldn't have much worked up in advance for the enemies as far as exploitable personality traits, but I would make sure the party knew they could instead be recalling knowledge on the enemy if they wanted, instead of using an action to distract them or engage them in debate about a topic relevant to the environment and purpose of the group (so maybe crafting, merchant lore, a relevant environment lore or survival if it makes sense, etc).

After two rounds, if the party has less than 5 VP, it is initiative as normal (sniper can use stealth) but the sniper would be out of position so the target would either be out of sight or at least concealed and with cover. IF the party managed 5 VP, I'd let the sniper be in position, but otherwise, initiative as usual. If the party gets to 8 VP, then I would let the sniper open with one free shot before initiative is rolled, just to have a decent reward for the whole party putting in the time. The sniper would not be able to roll stealth for initiative, because they just fired a fire arm, but I might be generous and give the rest of the party a +1 circumstance bonus to initiative since the enemy will really be distracted by the chaos.

If the party got less than 0 VP, then I would give the enemy a +1 on all their initiative checks, and if it happened because of a crit fail by the sniper, then the sniper could not roll stealth for initiative because I would say that they are detected when combat begins.

It would take a little more time potentially to run it this way, but it would establish an expectation that creative plans like this require the whole party to pitch in and participate. If they want to do stuff like this in the future, they can build towards it, and I would make up some charts of personality types and motivations for enemy groups that I could quickly consult in the future to give the encounter more depth.


Captain Morgan wrote:
Avoid Notice explicitly uses Sneak rules, at least when initiative is rolled. And you can't actually Sneak if there's nothing to hide behind.

No. Avoid Notice and Sneak are two distinct actions with their distinct rules. The bonus from Cover is only RAW for Sneak. Also, you can Avoid Notice even if there's no Cover nor Concealment.


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SuperBidi wrote:
Captain Morgan wrote:
Avoid Notice explicitly uses Sneak rules, at least when initiative is rolled. And you can't actually Sneak if there's nothing to hide behind.
No. Avoid Notice and Sneak are two distinct actions with their distinct rules. The bonus from Cover is only RAW for Sneak. Also, you can Avoid Notice even if there's no Cover nor Concealment.

Sorry, SB. While you technically can attempt to Avoid Notice with no cover or concealment, it means f-all because if you're out in the open you're immediately observed by anyone with line-of-sight. So cover and concealment is important, and is incorporated into the Stealth check "both to determine your initiative and to see if the enemies notice you (based on their Perception DCs, as normal for Sneak, regardless of their initiative check results)." ~ CR 479 under Avoid Notice, emphasis mine


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That's not entirely true.

Being prone allows any character to take cover, and because so benefitting from avoid notice if they want to, crawling towards the enemies.

So, even outside, any prone character can attempt to take cover, and because so to hide.

They can also take cover if they are behind a creature, getting lesser cover ( or standard cover, if the creature is 2 size larger than them ), resulting in being able to avoid notice even on an open field.

This would obviously require the enemies to be ahead, in order to properly benefit from a creature cover.

Finally, there's the light effect ( dim light allows the character to properly hide, if the want to ).


HumbleGamer wrote:

That's not entirely true.

Being prone allows any character to take cover, and because so benefitting from avoid notice if they want to, crawling towards the enemies.

So, even outside, any prone character can attempt to take cover, and because so to hide.

They can also take cover if they are behind a creature, getting lesser cover ( or standard cover, if the creature is 2 size larger than them ), resulting in being able to avoid notice even on an open field.

This would obviously require the enemies to be ahead, in order to properly benefit from a creature cover.

Finally, there's the light effect ( dim light allows the character to properly hide, if the want to ).

Slight correction :

Lesser cover doesn't allow you to hide without having some extra feature that allows that. (like the halfing 1st lvl feat that specifically allows you to do that).

Specifically, going by the Hide action:

Quote:
You huddle behind cover or greater cover

And going by the cover rules :

Quote:
A creature with standard cover or greater cover can attempt to use Stealth to Hide, but lesser cover isn't sufficient.


Missed that part.

Then the character is always unable to proceed stealthy during combat encounters regardless the situation ( you may create a diversion, but that'd be quite silly since it's not a diversion. But may be intended to be an action tax. Who knows).

They can't crawl passing next to enemies.
They can't hide behind allies.
And so on.

I wonder now whether avoid notice is just a "you can expend your exploration activity to roll stealth rather than perception." or it has those impossible requirements to be met.


HumbleGamer wrote:

Missed that part.

Then the character is always unable to proceed stealthy during combat encounters regardless the situation ( you may create a diversion, but that'd be quite silly since it's not a diversion. But may be intended to be an action tax. Who knows).

They can't crawl passing next to enemies.
They can't hide behind allies.
And so on.

I wonder now whether avoid notice is just a "you can expend your exploration activity to roll stealth rather than perception." or it has those impossible requirements to be met.

The way I run it is that I place the Avoid Notice character behind some form of cover/concealment at the initial placement of the encounter.

(behind corners, boulders, trees, wagons, etc)

You can stealth from cover to cover and I assume that's the exploration activity to begin with.

A very clear open field in broad daylight is not a place where you can easily Avoid Notice.


shroudb wrote:
HumbleGamer wrote:

Missed that part.

Then the character is always unable to proceed stealthy during combat encounters regardless the situation ( you may create a diversion, but that'd be quite silly since it's not a diversion. But may be intended to be an action tax. Who knows).

They can't crawl passing next to enemies.
They can't hide behind allies.
And so on.

I wonder now whether avoid notice is just a "you can expend your exploration activity to roll stealth rather than perception." or it has those impossible requirements to be met.

The way I run it is that I place the Avoid Notice character behind some form of cover/concealment at the initial placement of the encounter.

(behind corners, boulders, trees, wagons, etc)

You can stealth from cover to cover and I assume that's the exploration activity to begin with.

A very clear open field is not a place where you can easily Avoid Notice.

I find reasonable for a stealth character to make proper use of their light feet even without cover, while the rest of the team proceeds not caring about making noises.

Of course the character avoiding notice won't be able to benefit from stealth, not having a proper cover, but it seems reasonable tricking enemiy's hearing not making any sound ( rolling initiative on stealth rather than perception ).

We all have seen such scene where a tiptoed character moves sneaky past the guards or a group of talking enemies. They'd be able to see it if they were turned in their direction though.


HumbleGamer wrote:
shroudb wrote:
HumbleGamer wrote:

Missed that part.

Then the character is always unable to proceed stealthy during combat encounters regardless the situation ( you may create a diversion, but that'd be quite silly since it's not a diversion. But may be intended to be an action tax. Who knows).

They can't crawl passing next to enemies.
They can't hide behind allies.
And so on.

I wonder now whether avoid notice is just a "you can expend your exploration activity to roll stealth rather than perception." or it has those impossible requirements to be met.

The way I run it is that I place the Avoid Notice character behind some form of cover/concealment at the initial placement of the encounter.

(behind corners, boulders, trees, wagons, etc)

You can stealth from cover to cover and I assume that's the exploration activity to begin with.

A very clear open field is not a place where you can easily Avoid Notice.

I find reasonable for a stealth character to make proper use of their light feet even without cover, while the rest of the team proceeds not caring about making noises.

Of course the character avoiding notice won't be able to benefit from stealth, not having a proper cover, but it seems reasonable tricking enemiy's hearing not making any sound ( rolling initiative on stealth rather than perception ).

We all have seen such scene where a tiptoed character moves sneaky past the guards or a group of talking enemies. They'd be able to see it if they were turned in their direction though.

Well yeah, it's not like I disallow the roll for the initiative. It's just the actual hidden condition that needs cover when I run it.

If there are conditions where "vision" won't work, then they are indeed Concealed.

Horizon Hunters

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

The real answer is make it a Skill Challenge. Make the sniper make Stealth checks as they are moving into position and setting up, with Circumstance bonuses based on how the party distracts the guards and target. Then assuming the sniper hasn't failed badly, have the sniper take a single shot against the target's AC with the following effects:

Critical Success: The shot is a head shot, the target dies instantly.
Success: You hit a vital organ, the target is significantly wounded, dealing X amount of damage and making them Enfeebled or something.
Failure: You barely miss the target.
Critical Failure: You hit an ally with your shot, dealing damage to them instead.

And then you can roll initiative. While there's no surprise round Skill challenges can still lead into an encounter just fine. You can use the Infiltration subsystem to give additional bonuses to the strike due to the relaxed guards, or penalties if they mess up and put the guards on alert.


Cordell Kintner wrote:

The real answer is make it a Skill Challenge. Make the sniper make Stealth checks as they are moving into position and setting up, with Circumstance bonuses based on how the party distracts the guards and target. Then assuming the sniper hasn't failed badly, have the sniper take a single shot against the target's AC with the following effects:

Critical Success: The shot is a head shot, the target dies instantly.
Success: You hit a vital organ, the target is significantly wounded, dealing X amount of damage and making them Enfeebled or something.
Failure: You barely miss the target.
Critical Failure: You hit an ally with your shot, dealing damage to them instead.

And then you can roll initiative. While there's no surprise round Skill challenges can still lead into an encounter just fine. You can use the Infiltration subsystem to give additional bonuses to the strike due to the relaxed guards, or penalties if they mess up and put the guards on alert.

You're all forgetting one detail. This is the same OP who plans to make a sniper/investigator and have his party stall multiple rounds if necessary until he Devise a Plans into a one-shot kill on the boss

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